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tweeky 06-10-2003 10:24 AM

DL talk from the News Star
A decent report for Saints junkies...

For Saints, 'weighting' still the hardest part
New Orleans hopes girth of DT Grady Jackson will scale down.
Nick Deriso / Sports Editor

Tackle Grady Jackson is having an awful offseason.

It didn't help that much of New Orleans' late-season collapse was blamed on the defense's soft middle.

Or that the Saints, after a flurry of activity, moved up to draft a talented defensive tackle out of Georgia.

Or that the team dealt linemate Norman Hand to Seattle - citing weight, motivation and age issues.

Or that Hand's old backup arrived at this summer's camps both well-conditioned and eager.

Or that Jackson didn't - on either count.

Grady Jackson isn't fit. And he didn't show for the coaching sessions.

"Well, it is voluntary," Saints coach Jim Haslett said of the workouts, held at the team's new training facility in Metairie. "It would be nice to have everyone."

But, occasionally, Haslett is a bit less forgiving. His clipped responses provide a more telling glimpse into the team's growing aggravation.

Q: How much does Jackson weigh?

A: I know.

Q: How long does your patience run?

A: I am fine right now.

The Saints have targeted at least five games where a mobile, aggressive line will be the difference.

"We've got Michael Vick twice," Haslett said of the upcoming season. "We've got Kordell Stewart. We've got Donovan McNabb. We've got (Steve) McNair, so we thought that you're going to have to have some speed to chase these quarterbacks down. You need somebody who can give you a little shake and a little wiggle and can get after the quarterback a little bit."

In stark contrast to those plans stands Jackson, said to have thickened up to 366 pounds.

"His weight is inexcusable for a professional athlete," Haslett said. "If we can get him in the program, with the talent he has, I think he could play well."

Meanwhile, third-year player Kenny Smith, the former backup, has been a stalwart member of these sessions - looking and playing a much more polished game. Jackson remained at his Jackson, Miss., home.

That gave Smith - who platooned at both reserve defensive end and tackle last year - the opening he needed at camp.

Choosing Johnathan Sullivan as the 17th overall pick in the 2003 draft has many thinking that he'll start, too. "He's extremely physical," Haslett said of Sullivan's workouts. "He's got a lot of moves. He's everything I expected."

Jackson, himself once a coveted free-agent grab out of Oakland, will have to battle for backup rights with Martin Chase - a fifth-year player who has started just four games for New Orleans.

"We have high expectations for those guys, as well as Jonathan," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, minutes after the Sullivan pick was completed. "Let's not forget that ... (Sullivan) hasn't played a down yet in the league. This doesn't mean that we are giving up on anybody. But on the other hand, we do have a lot of players at that position now."

The next day, Norman Hand was packing his stuff.

That same fate, despite the turbulence of the past few months, apparently doesn't await Jackson.

"I am not giving up on Grady," Haslett said. "I like Grady as a football player and as a person. We still have a lot of time. I just wish he would get in line with the rest of these guys."

[Edited on 10/6/2003 by tweeky]

BillyCarpenter1 06-10-2003 11:04 AM

DL talk from the News Star
Grady Jackson can be a stud in our defense. I just hope Haslett can motivate him to get in shape and try to win his starting spot back.

tweeky 06-10-2003 11:14 AM

DL talk from the News Star

Grady Jackson can be a stud in our defense. I just hope Haslett can motivate him to get in shape and try to win his starting spot back.
\"When fit, he is an ELITE player\"

Our DL has POTENTIAL to be absolutely dominant,
But also has enough unknowns to result in another disaster.

I\'ll feel much much better when I hear Gravy Jackson\'s weight is below 340.

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